Apple iPod Touch large: I want one

Amid all the rumours that Steve Jobs is getting sicker comes what I think is a much more interesting rumour: that Apple will launch a larger-format iPod Touch. Not that I don’t care about Steve-O and his health, of course — I do. But when it comes to Apple products, I’m really interested in the idea of a kind of wireless mini-tablet with the multi-touch interface (something Chris Messina and others have mused about in the past).

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Journos vs. bloggers and other straw men

While I was doing my best to remain peaceful during the Christmas holidays, I couldn’t help but feel the blood rising after I read Paul Mulshine’s recent piece in the Wall Street Journal about bloggers and the future of journalism, which I found via a Twitter link from my friend Jay Rosen (who was responding to one from Salon founder Scott Rosenberg about the piece). As I read it, I had that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, the kind you get when you realize that an argument you thought had been settled years ago — and not just an argument, but a distorted and ultimately futile and unhelpful viewpoint — is still very much alive.

Mulshine’s piece (which is here) has the troll-ish headline “All I Wanted For Christmas Was A Newspaper,” and segues from a heart-warming anecdote about old-style reporters throwing copy out the window of the campaign bus into a discussion of how the Internet is “killing old-fashioned newspapers.” The passive-aggressive tone of the piece is somewhat understandable when you realize that Mulshine is an opinion columnist for the Newark Star-Ledger, a paper that recently laid off almost 50 per cent of its editorial staff. As a fellow journalist, I can sympathize with the writer’s desire to find a villain somewhere — but as Jay and a number of others have noted quite well since the piece appeared, focusing on the Web and bloggers is not only wrong, but dumb.

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A Christmas interlude

I’m taking a bit of a personal break over the holidays, to spend some time with friends and family. In place of my usual insightful commentary, I offer you instead these peaceful images of the countryside around Buckhorn in rural Ontario, about two hours northeast of Toronto.

GateHouse: O hai, internetz — we r fail

With David Carr’s argument that newspapers should ignore the Web only a few days old — not to mention Joel Brinkley’s suggestion that anti-trust violations are a viable business model — I thought the market for stupid newspaper-related activity was pretty well saturated. But apparently I was wrong. It seems that GateHouse Media, which owns a number of regional papers in the U.S., is suing the New York Times for linking to its content. Yes, you read that correctly — it is suing to stop the NYT from linking.

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The RIAA switches tactics

The Recording Industry Association of America has been waging war against copyright infringement — in the form of illegal downloads — since the file-sharing app known as Napster first appeared on the scene a decade ago. For much of that time, the RIAA’s preferred form of attack has been the lawsuit, with the record-industry body filing claims against hundreds of thousands of individuals for financial damages, including several high-profile cases that have targeted single mothers, war veterans, and teenagers for sharing as few as a dozen songs. Now, the RIAA has apparently decided to switch tactics, according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal, and will no longer sue individual downloaders.

Instead, the agency plans to strike deals with Internet service providers that will see the ISPs agree to contact individual file-sharers when notified by the RIAA that illegal activity is occurring. After two warnings about their behaviour, the RIAA is hoping that ISPs will agree to shut off their customers’ access to the Internet.

What this means is that the record-industry group is trading a head-on assault for a back-room negotiation with Internet providers, in the hope that it can do an end-run around the problems its previous strategy produced. Not only was the lawsuit approach a magnet for negative publicity, but it also ran into repeated legal roadblocks as well. In one of the latest, for example, a U.S. court ruled that the RIAA would have to show that songs had actually been downloaded before it could prove infringement. Unfortunately for the RIAA, however, its new strategy could cause some legal headaches as well, since the “three strikes” approach is almost certain to be challenged in court.

One of the biggest issues with such an approach is that it assumes the RIAA has correctly identified a) specific songs that are being infringed, and b) the individual doing the infringing. If it makes a mistake in any one of the three steps, an innocent user has their Internet access cut off without any recourse. And over the years that the record industry has been pursuing its legal strategy, there has been plenty of evidence to show that its ability to do either a) or b) is far from perfect. The agency has repeatedly mis-identified not only the individuals doing the sharing — who in many cases are distinct from the customers the Internet account belongs to — but has also mis-identified songs as infringing when they have been legally acquired.

The “three strikes” approach is not a new one. The French government has proposed new legislation that would require ISPs to cut off the access of users who repeatedly infringe on copyright, although the legislation has yet to become law. An amendment by the European Parliament earlier this year strongly urged France and other European Union countries not to adopt this kind of legislation, but it was later overturned by the EU Council of Ministers, and according to the most recent reports France is going ahead with it. Britain’s record-industry lobby group managed to convince several ISPs to warn their users when notified by the agency, but they have stopped short of actually cutting off their users’ Internet access after a third “strike.”

The RIAA may think that it has come up with a clever way around its earlier legal hassles, but it could find that trying to make ISPs into copyright police faces just as many hurdles, if not more.

Ignore the Web? Good luck with that

David Carr, a writer for the New York Times, is a pretty interesting guy — he kicked a cocaine habit and went on to become a respected journalist at one of the country’s top newspapers, something he just finished writing a book about. That’s the good news. The bad news is that a piece he wrote on Monday perpetuates all kinds of myths about the so-called competition between the Web and the printed newspaper business. For a guy who is supposed to be the Times media columnist, that’s not a great calling card — unless the only media you like to write about is the kind that lines the bird cage or is used to wrap fish and chips.

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Facebook and the journalistic impulse

I came across a post in my news feeds on Friday, and didn’t think much of it at first. It was a post by a guy who writes about education at a blog called Square Peg, and it was about Facebook. I was in a hurry, so I moved on and figured I would go back to it. When I re-read it on the weekend, I thought it was fascinating — not so much because of what it’s about (a marketing group that hijacked some university Facebook groups) but because of how it has evolved over the past few days.

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RIAA switches to “three strikes” approach

The Recording Industry Association of America, which has spent the past five years suing tens of thousands of individual file-sharers for copyright infringement, has apparently decided to change tactics, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal (hopefully this one is a little more reliable than the recent story about Google’s views on net neutrality). The good news is that they are going to stop suing 13-year-olds and retired war veterans and single mothers for downloading music. The bad news is that their new plan involves cutting sneaky backroom deals with Internet service providers to take a so-called “three strikes” approach: They let the ISP know when they think you’ve been sharing copyrighted material, and the provider agrees to send you an email warning; the second time, you get a letter; do it again and your Internet access gets cut off.

(read the rest of this post at GigaOm)

The Ingrams Christmas Letter for 2008

We started the year as we often do: by scraping the snow from the pond at our friends’ place near Buckhorn so we could skate and play “snow bocce” or “Javex curling,” which involves sliding old Javex bottles full of frozen water across the pond at a target. Soon to be an Olympic sport! We also did a fair bit of snowshoeing, played some pool, and ate a ton of great food — including my favourite, caviar pie (which is really just egg salad with caviar on top, with a fancy design). And then it was off on our annual trip to Ottawa for some skating on the canal and Beaver Tails and poutine and a nice soak in the hot tub.

R: 137 G: 255 B: 167 X:49972 Y:10944 S: 118 Z: 313 F: 36

Before too long it was time to head south — to Becky’s parents’ place near Venice, Florida where we swam in the pools and played on the beach and played some shuffleboard and enjoyed the sunsets on the beautiful white beach on Siesta Key, which is reportedly one of the best beaches in North America. We also took the kids to Busch Gardens up in Sarasota so they could see some animals and go on some rollercoasters and the carousel and see the birds in the bird sanctuary. Zoe also had a dual birthday with part of it in Florida at her grandparents’ place and part in our basement in Scarborough.

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The TTC does the right thing

When I first heard about the YouTube rap video “I Get On The TTC,” which a couple of Toronto rappers recorded recently about the venerable — and much criticized — Toronto Transit Commission, I was really hoping that the TTC wouldn’t blow it by either ignoring or somehow trying to de-legitimize the video. I thought the fact that TTC commissioner Adam Giambrone is (as far as I can tell) about 19 years old might help them get with the “user-generated content” program, and for whatever reason it looks like that is in fact the case. According to a post at Torontoist, the duo got a call from Toronto officials, and wound up being honoured by Mayor David Miller and Giambrone, who played the video and even danced along, and then gave the two a free January Metropass. And some props are also due to Mayor Miller for the shout-out to “Spadina Bus,” the 1980s hit from The Shuffle Demons.